One reason to travel is to meet the natives, locals who populate the landscape, so to speak. The other is to see things unfamiliar. In traveling, of course, sometimes even the most familiar sights seem new and arouse your attention. Yes, travel is great for the mind and the spirit.
So they say.
My friend who moved to the midwest is back from her trip to Thailand and Malaysia. She has found out the awful truth that going east doesn't seem to affect the body so much as traveling west. Her sleep pattern is all out of whack. But, she wrote me this morning, she is ready to travel again.
Google keeps sending me ads for cheap fares to Las Vegas. I like Vegas. And I like Palm Springs. Red wants me to come see her south of L.A. That sounds like it could be an interesting adventure.
Yesterday marked a week since I drove north to my old college town. I wanted to go somewhere again. The day promised to be balmy, and if I left early and headed northeast to the coast, I might miss much of the traffic. I threw on a t-shirt and a pair of Patagonia adventure shorts, grabbed a Leica bag and a Liberator bag and headed for the door.
Suburban sprawl--past identical restaurants, Walmarts, Targets, and cloned shopping centers filled with vape stores, nail salons, and sub shops. It wasn't until I had crossed America's laziest river (it changes only 27 feet in elevation in over 300 miles) that I began to see anything resembling countryside. Developers, however, have convinced the state to widen a once two-lane road to the coast in order to make billions of dollars "serving progress." Large swaths of once swamp, prairie, and cattle land have been drained, filled, and built upon. Once one large development goes in. . . . Large stands of pine have given way to stucco ranch style homes of limited variety, treeless green lawns, and chain stores to serve them. Soon there will be apartment buildings spreading like a wildfire. In only a few years what used to be a nonstop country road to the coast has become a stop-and-go highway filled with traffic lights and crossroads.
One day, all of this will flood just as it did in the sprawling new lowland developments on the outskirts of my own hometown, but by then, the devious developers will be gone taking the greed head government officials who allowed all of this with them.
That is my complaint, in brief, but by and large, I made o.k. time. After crossing the bridge over the Intercostal Waterway, traffic slowed to a crawl. Although it was early, I decided to stop at the a wonderful French bakery to get a turkey and Swiss sandwich to take with me. I bought a bag of coconut macaroons, too, to bring home. It is a ritual.
At the coast, I turned south and drove to a historically Black beach that is no longer segregated, of course. We used to come here to surf when I was in high school and it is usually my go-to beach for a day trip, especially now. The place is filled with Quasimodos, so. . . .
I parked and took my sandwich and Pepsi (that's all the bakery sells) to a bench and poured the oil and vinegar over the sandwich. As always, it immediately soaked through the delicate bread and coated my fingers. I used to always split the sandwich with someone, but now I eat the entire sandwich like the gargantuan I have become. But holy hell. . . delicious.
The water was too cold for bathers. Here and there, people lay on the beach hoping for some sun among the rows of fisherman lining the shore.
Just as I was finishing my sandwich, the fellow in front of me on the beach reeled in a baby shark about 15 inches long. I wanted to ask him if I could get a photo of him holding it. I wanted to use my Liberator for that one. But my fingers were slathered in oil. I tried wiping them off with paper napkins, but I still didn't dare touch my cameras. I watched him take great care removing the hook from the mouth of the shark, then, swinging it around by the tail, throw it back into the surf. I'd already missed the first good pic. I headed to the restroom to wash my hands.
I recently purchased an electronic viewfinder for my new Leica M10-P so that I could use some of my wide angle lenses on it. I had on a 21mm Voigtlander I had gotten many, many years ago. Holy smokes--this was good. I put the camera over the railing, looked down into the finder while the fisherman looked back at me. Fuck all, I wished he had the shark.
I got out the big ole Black Cat and made a couple pictures, but in spite of everything I hope to do with it, the damn thing is a real pain to use. It is heavy, awkward, and unwieldy. When I get my new medium format digital Fuji camera, I am hoping to use that as my miniature travel Liberator. It won't be quite as good at lifting subjects out of the photo, but it might be close. I have already ordered some adapters to let me use some interesting lenses. Yea. . . I'm spending money like a crazy man. But I swear I am going to sell a bunch of stuff soon.
After awhile, I packed up to move on down the coast to the small beachside downtown fifteen or twenty minutes to the north.
Maybe I'll tell you about the rest of the day tomorrow. For now, though, I will skip ahead.
While I was at the beach, I got a text from the woman who barely asked me out.
She was hiking with some women from the factory. She is a confessed West Virginia hillbilly (with a Ph.D.) who loves the outdoors. She sent me a picture of the group on a trail called Barr Street Trailhead. But I read it as "Bar Street," and wrote back, "Of course." I mean, it was the usual drinking crew. She, however, has outdone me on the whole Dry January thing. She was on day 45, though we each confess not knowing when we will break our alcohol fast.
"It could be twenty days or it could be two," she said.
When I got home, the cat was waiting. She seems only to come for dinner now. She must have a secret life. I unpacked the car while she danced circles, then put food in her bowl, poured a drink, and lit a cheroot. There were texts from Red and others, but it was no good. I was tired of my own company. I wanted someone else to play with tonight.
But I had not prepared for that. I had made nor accepted any advances. I reached in the fridge and pulled out some leftovers and put them in the microwave. It was dark now, and I would eat inside. I turned on the television and listened to Didion read some of her essays while I ate. Then I cleaned the kitchen and opened the coconut macaroons. I ate one. It just melted in my mouth. Dinner had sucked, but the cookies were great. So, of course, I ate more. A person needs pleasure, and these were my only succor that night.
The travel bug is coming back, though, and I will make some other sojourns soon where I will have cocktails in bars and charm "the women" once again.
And I will photograph it all.
I am ready to make a "Moon Safari."